Episode 52: Lisa Teh’s Serial Founder Story

I sat down with the super stylish serial entrepreneur, Lisa Teh.

She’s a force to be reckoned with in the entrepreneurial world. 

With an impressive portfolio, including a cutting-edge marketing agency attuned to Web 3.0 and a unique toothpaste brand, Lisa shows us you can carve whatever path you want. 

I loved delving into:

  • How she steers her entrepreneurial journey through the ups and downs
  • How she pivoted from fashion marketing to tech icon
  • And the secret behind balancing multiple successful ventures.

She is a TOTAL boss and one of the most authentic and down to earth entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with.

If you’re hustling in the startup scene, or you’re toying with the idea of launching your own product – this one’s a must-listen. 

Remember to:

Follow Lisa on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisateh

Follow ‘Mellonie Francis’ on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mellonie-francis

Transcript:

Mel:
Hello, and welcome back to listening to innovative minds, I have a very innovative mind who I’ve been trying to get on here for some time. And I’m super excited to do this with Lisa TAFE. And maybe you know her, maybe you don’t, I very much think you probably do if you’re within our circle in our network. She is, you know, a serial entrepreneur, she is a boss, a hustler, if you watch her on LinkedIn, we will drop all her LinkedIn information within description, but I’ve got her for a very short time, right. So I want to hop in and just get right into just conversing with her and finding out more about how she’s gotten to where she’s at, and hopefully inspires all of you listening on that it’s also possible for you. So welcome, Lisa.

Lisa:
Thank you so much. And thank you. So thank you for being patient with me, really. And I think we’ve been trying to schedule this for a month. So I really appreciate you even reaching out to me and getting me on your show. I’m very excited to chat through a bit more of my journey today.

Mel:
Cool. So least I followed you for, you know, a couple of years, I think, and just watch you go strength to strength on your personal brand on your company’s journey. And seeing you dabble, you know, in a lot of things can I and I saw, you know, you’re into fashion, which is where actually, you caught my attention, you know, is the way that you come across and you present and, you know, it was like super inspiring, because you’re like someone is going out there and being out there is really inspiring thing for women to be like, you can be who you want to be as well. Right? So tell me for you like, how did you know what was your journey like to business world? Right, like, Was it like a typical, you know, Asian journey like myself where, you know, like, I want to kind of hear from where it began from to where you get into business?

Lisa:
Well, I would say he’s a little bit of a typical journey from an Asian sense, because I actually love fashion and wanted to be a fashion designer. But my parents who are pretty conservative, did not think that that was a safe career path. I ended up going to study commerce law. And I ended up being a tax lawyer of all things. And I always say, I’m pretty sure no kid grows up wanting to be a tax lawyer. That is not one of the dream career journeys. But I ended up in tax, I don’t know how and I lasted for about seven years. Along the way, I ended up discovering social media. And I just fell in love with the ability to share content at scale and consume content at scale. And that allowed me to start a fashion beauty and lifestyle website, which is still going to today, which is called catering. And that actually gave me the opportunity to experience the digital world as it was pretty much evolving at the time. And obviously, it’s still changing rapidly at the moment, but it was also new, you know, social media and, you know, even brands using social media to begin to communicate with their consumers. So that allowed me to do a bit of a career change. So I actually finally got my chance to work in fashion. So I worked in the marketing team, at which rate managing their loyalty programme at the time, which had around a million members, I think, and it was really great experience. I very much thought it was gonna be like Sex in the City. But it was a everyone wore black. And I was like so I think I’ve been very influenced, because I pretty much always wear black running. I ended up selling my first agency about eight years ago now and it’s been a bit of a crazy ride. So along the way. So that’s a digital marketing agency called Cody agency and we do we focus on web to social media, and digital marketing. So anything from Instagram, Facebook, tik, Tok, LinkedIn, YouTube, those kind of main main platforms, and we do content creation as well. The team are incredible, super talented, who we’re very fortunate to be working alongside people who teach me every single day. So very grateful for that. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a real up and down journey. And, you know, I don’t see myself as anyone particularly special. In fact, I probably would say that I’m not amazing at business. I just love digital. And I love I love meeting people I love you know, seeing if we can help them with their problems. But you know, I do feel like I’m constantly looking to learn and better myself in that business sense. I don’t think you ever stop learning. And I think if you think that you do then it’s pretty much time to give up because there’s always ways that you can improve yourself or be better. So then yeah, along the way, I also created a tech platform called listening which is a business listings and experts listings play form, which is still running today. So we have around a quarter of a million businesses listed on the website, and experts, which helps people find the right agencies to help them. Agencies and professional service providers achieve their business objectives. And then I went down the web three rabbit hole, which is like NF T’s blockchain, crypto for anyone new to that space, went down the web three rabbit hole in 2021. And then decided to start my second agency called mooning, which focuses on helping brands, either web two or web three brands, successfully executing web three. So that kind of has kept me busy over the past. Yeah, like, however many years, I also created a toothpaste line, which was in Mecca, called One on One lifestyle, and wrote a couple of books called Australian one called Australian style one called Australian beauty. And we’re interviewing key people in the Australian scene from both of those different industries. So that was really a really interesting process, like just getting the chance to write a book because actually, when I was younger, I did want to be a librarian when I grew up.

Mel:
Got it, I want to go back to, you know, like, we always hear these journeys or exit it after, you know, three years. And, you know, it sounds so amazing. But sometimes we are as entrepreneurs grinding for a much longer time. And you know, I can say to you like, it does just sound like it just kind of fell into your lap. At the right time. It sounds you got lucky because you’re not eating peanut butter. And, Jim, you’re working hard. It sounds like you had the work ethic, but some of us are grinding for much longer. And that exit still doesn’t come. Was there any other? Was it just you know, it was other special techniques that you said work ethic? Right time? Right place, right. Industry? Was it the right business partner as well, that, you know, was there was everything just kind of fell into place? Because a lot of people don’t, in the first time they ever do something? It’s a very high chance that your first company, you’re going to fail? But you know.That would be okay with your parents, they would think that’s like, acceptable. I mean, I told my parents, I wanted to be a makeup artist, when Oh, I was

Lisa:
flawless. I feel like that’s a great alreay path.

Mel:
I thought, you know, I was like, that’s what I want. And they will like, You must be crazy, like you’re doing it, like, it was just so happy. I did like the economics degree, you know, and they’ll like, I mean, they really wanted me to be a doctor. Like, that’s like the number one goal for in my culture. But it’s funny, because I went and like you then went and did economics in the whole, you know, corporate world for seven years to make my parents happy. But inside, in your heart, you’re not satisfied. And it sounds like with you. Similar to me is like after that seven years pass, you’re ready to unleash to the world, that everything that you had kept inside for those seven years of compliance and doing a job, you just kind of went and did so many things. Building up.

Lisa:
Yeah, it’s quite funny because I wouldn’t I mean, I work alongside creatives. And there’s, you know, there’s creatives and there’s like real creatives. And I definitely don’t think on the spectrum that I’m anywhere near the level of like super creatives. But compared to people in the business world, I’m definitely not suited to just sitting at a desk looking at tax returns all day. So I feel like this whole digital marketing spaces allow me to, I guess, explore that creative side of my personality. But you You did raise a really interesting point earlier on, because I would say that women especially are very conscious about the way they come across. So the way they do their hair, the way they do their makeup, the way they dress. And I definitely felt quite challenged in the corporate world, because I really love to express myself through fashion. And I would struggle to, you know, see how I could fit into the corporate world, but still be feel like it was me. And, you know, not get not criticism or unnecessary attention. But you know, I’d wear like bright coloured shoes. And I think people will just like even taking her job seriously. I’m like, I am taking my job seriously, I just don’t want to look like a corporate robot. So when I started getting active on LinkedIn, so this is when I actually started, well, I own my own business, I thought, if I’m going to do this properly, I’m going to just be myself. So I’m going to wear whatever I want to wear, I’m going to wear whatever makeup I want to wear, I have my hair however I want to have it. And if people don’t take me seriously, then that’s on them. It’s not on me. Because I know how hard I work. I know that how seriously I take my job and looking after our clients. And so you know, I think it’s really easy for women to be judged on appearance, which is a real shame. But I just thought I’m going to be authentic. This is my opportunity to actually show women and men out there that they can be whoever they want to be. And hopefully, you know, build a serious professional brand out in the business world.

Mel:
Yeah, exactly. When I was in corporate, I thought I would start early. And I started posting, because I was like, I’m gonna do my business in like eight months, you know, so I wanted to start building and I remember them coming down on me pretty hard, because what I had posted, didn’t suit the camera brand at that time that you know that a top tier for bank, they didn’t like that I put my opinion out there. And I was putting my opinion out there about lending which was a pretty much like what, you know, I was saying, Look, we don’t want to lend to supermarkets, which was exactly what was going on at the time. But they were like, We don’t want you to put that out there. So you know, it was very hard to in the same way like own your thoughts, you know, even in corporate scene. What’s really interesting for me, we use a lot of a lot of founders and a lot of entrepreneurs they get they feel like if they do too many things that they are never going to make it or they’re shy to have more than one thought, you know, because they’re gonna be like, Well, can you do any of it? You know, like, so what it sounds like is you’ve actually don’t give a shit and you’ve gone and said, Hey, I want to do toothpaste, like, I’m gonna be toothpaste like it’s okay to be multi faceted, you know, explore it. And I guess that is something that a lot of people, you know, chat find challenging because they’re like, which one should I do first? Should I only do one because I don’t want people to think that, like people got I’m confusing as a brand, you know, because I don’t know what I’m doing. How I guess the first thing is how have you managed to actually do all those things successfully? And, you know, and go and put time allocation like, you’ve got an agency going on? And we know how tough that is? You? You know, with all the ups and downs of that, and all the feelings and emotions of several clients taking you through that? How do you then take yourself out and go, you know, I’m going to do toothpaste and and what and when when was it in your journey that you’re able to maybe even do that was that after you’ve established a certain calibre of team that enabled you to step away? Like, could you walk me through that?

Lisa:
Good question. So I think I have a personality that lends itself to doing multiple things at once, because I get a bit bored if I’m just doing the same thing over and over again. So I think I’m always looking for new challenges. The only way that it’s possible for me to do multiple things is to have an amazing team. Because it’s so hard. It’s so much work, like as you were mentioning agency, like honestly, nothing ages you faster than working overnight, why I do it sometimes. But if you’re that personality that likes that fast paced, you know, energy likes, constant challenges, likes things that are, you know, consistently evolving, then digital agency is actually a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s really stressful days where I’m just going, I just wish I was my dog. And I could just sleep all day, and I don’t have a stress in the world. But definitely team makes a massive difference. I’ve got a very probably risk seeking personality. So I’m not someone who is afraid of taking risks, and I love change. And I love learning. So for me, you know, say during the toothpaste, I think, look, I we definitely made a lot of mistakes. So I did that with my partner. And we definitely made a lot of mistakes. But, you know, I look back and go actually learn a lot, you know, and you know, who can say they started a toothpaste line, like probably not that many people because it’s probably a weird thing to do. But, you know, I think for me, I always love feeling like, you know, if I get to the end of the year, even like now we’re quarter the way through the year, I think, okay, Have I done anything where it actually has caused me a bit of stress, because most likely, I’m learning. And it’s like, it’s uncomfortable territory. So at the time stresses, it’s not ideal. And I’m not saying go out there and try and be stressed all the time. But it does mean that you’re learning because you’re uncomfortable, and you’re not sure about what’s going to happen in the future. So for me, I’ve never been afraid of that feeling. Like that’s when I feel like I’m I’m developing. But in terms of doing a lot like it is I’m not gonna lie, like, you know, for a lot of people, it’s not that effective. And I’m not even saying that it’s like that effective for me, because you can obviously achieve a lot more if you’re focused on one thing, but for my personality type I do like having a few different things on the go. Because then I can just sort of flick between them. But it does mean you have to work really hard. So you know, I work weekends I work you know, it’s not a nine to five job. We joking web three, that web three office hours or 24/7. But, you know, I genuinely love what I do. And you know, I’m earning way less than I was in the corporate world. But I’ve never been happier. Like I I really value the freedom that my you know, Job has, and you know, I feel eternally grateful that I found something that I’m really passionate about, because that’s not guaranteed, you know, I’m guessing you obviously love makeup, for example, and you found that thing that you can go I’m really excited, you know, by doing it making up someone’s face making my own face like I feel like that with digital. And so I feel very fortunate that I’ve been given the opportunity to do that every day. Like it doesn’t feel like wow,

Mel:
yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I never got to do the makeup thing unfortunately because COVID Here, it’s never too late. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna not do it. Like if you did a toothpaste like that’s it I’m gonna like my avocado facemask. But I love the fact you’re so honest about the fact that we make way less or with even me like in a leaving and I think this is so true, like critical to share. Like when you are in corporate, you do your nine to five, you get your hit, you know, hit in your account, and you can actually have a very you can kind of go under the radar through that restructure and you can earn really well. Good money into your account, but in agency, I’m guessing and even with my agency, it’s really tough that early years like you get nothing in there and you’re like kind of lonely and it’s like a thankless job a lot of the time, right? You’ve got people that are like really happy with you Your when it goes well, but it’s all forgotten, when it’s not going well, so. So when, with this age with agency, when was it like, I guess for you in that eight years, you said, you know, I’ve been doing this? What was like major turning points? Like was it like, you know, first two years, X happened, like where we’re like, you know, where people are like if they are similar to you, and they going through it, and they’re not eight years, and they’re at like, say that second year, they’re out there? Like, what? Are they expecting the same circle of life where it doesn’t get any easier for us?

Lisa:
I don’t know if it ever gets easier, I’ll be honest, I feel like agencies just this crazy beast that’s constantly evolving, and you’ll have problems. At any point in time, when you’re running an agency like you’ll have, obviously starting out problems, like where you’re trying to get leads and build reputation, then you might have delivery problems when you’re trying to sell things like how do I deliver now what a great processes, yeah, and then you’ve got scaling problems, and then you just got constant lead generation problems. Because, you know, especially in the web two space, a lot of what web two agencies do is quite commoditized. So there’s like a lot of them. So you know, we’ll have people come out who, you know, might just start their agency, and they’re really cheap, because this is what we will start we will do everything for free. We’re then competing against people who charging nothing, so it’s just a race to the bottom. So we’re just trying to, you know, maintain those clients, and then to get into the room with the bigger enterprise. And the larger clients, that can be quite hard if you’re not part of like a big global agency, network. So it like I’m I won’t even pretend like it’s agencies like one of the toughest things you can ever do. Because the pressure is relentless. You know, you’ve got many stakeholders constantly chasing you to deliver, you’ve got your team that you have to manage, you’ve got the algorithms that are constantly changing. So it’s not for the faint hearted, I think I’ve got about, I don’t know, 1000 more grey hairs. But you know, it can be very rewarding. But I would never say like, you could ever take your foot off the pedal, because there’ll be different challenges that you face in every different lifecycle of an agency, you just have to think about whether or not you want to, you know, be able to handle that level of stress all the time, because it is, it’s like I liken it to being the ocean, it’s like, you can’t you can’t rest for a second, otherwise you’ll drown. Like, it’s just exactly, it’s really,

Mel:
I mean, the smart agency owners take what they’re learning and they productize. And they see like an opportunity, right? And that’s what we are doing. We’re like, so curious about what’s going on that we will get a process or a system that’s so neat for us, and then we can go in productize. And that’s quite a very normal, they have one product, that’s because most of the people are like, No, I can’t afford you is very common. Right? So you’ve got that product, and you’ve got that knowledge that you know, intimately? Well, I guess that’s, and that sounds like you’ve that you’ve got sort of that product lists that you mentioned, that you kind of learned through it. Right? And that’s maybe where it’s not as stressful. What is it as stressful? Sorry, is because we’re all like really excited about products, right? And we’re like, that’s the magic pill that we’re gonna swallow. And that’s, that’s gonna get, but is product also can can you become very old very quick, you know, because it’s such a fast moving pace.

Lisa:
Product is like a whole different skill set. And I think that’s the hard thing with agency, because you’ve got your, like, agency traditionally is very service heavy. So you’ve got people executing social media strategy, creating content, or copied on photos, geography. So that’s one whole skill set. And one whole process there. When you’re building product like that is a whole nother skill set that’s required, like you pretty much need a whole nother department, like you’ll need UX UI designers you need, like actual tech people. So it is a very different and I’m actually going through that with one of my agencies at the moment, like working on developing product, and it is very different. So it’s like, how do you like, do you need to separate the agency and the product? Or do you keep it together and the agency feeds the product, so and does the strategy for the product. So it is your right? Like it is a very common thing for agencies to do. But if you’re gonna go down that path, just know that it’s, you can’t just get your existing social team, for example, to all of a sudden go, can you start coding because I don’t know what you’re talking about. So it can become very expensive. And then so you need to be able to have runway to fund the build. Because you know, especially with devs, in this day and age, they’re not cheap, especially really good ones. And if you want to keep it onshore and you manage the whole process, it will be more expensive again, and then you’ll need to make sure that you can fund the whole build because it could take months so you’re paying the salary where there’s no revenue coming in from that side of the business. So it is very, it’s definitely a different beast. But you’re right like it makes so much more sense if you want to scale eventually because you know, one of the hardest things to do is scale a services business because it’s reliant on people like those your assets and to find good people. People who can deliver the level of service that you want to is very challenging.

Mel:
Yeah. And I think you’ve been very good at finding good people. I’ve seen some of your team and I’ve seen and, you know, I’ve seen, you know, them also take on the branding part for you as well, you know, and yeah, that’s really hard. And then, but that also hurts if they choose to move on, you know, if they’re, you’ve got their way talented as well. It’s like, now I have to fill that big hole. So how do you attract, you know, quality talent? What’s your, you know, what’s your secret sauce in building a strong team around you? Who has the same ethic work ethic as you but also at the same quality standards that you’re looking for?

Lisa:
Well, that’s a very good question. I’ve been very fortunate to work with incredible people. And it is sad when you and I think that’s one of the risks as a business owner, because I want my team to be the face of the company as well. So it’s not just me, but then you do risk that they will get poached. So it is a hard balance, because like part of me wants to hide them away and be like, don’t leave me. And then the other part of me is like, but I want them to get the same experiences and learn from sharing and building their personal brand like I did. So. Like, I always encourage my team to be out there and you know, do whatever they want to do. And you know, they feature in our podcasts, they feature on our social channels. So you know, your team are really like the key driving force behind any business. I wish I could take credit, but I’m horrendous judge of character. I was. I wasn’t for the good in people. So I’m very lucky to have two amazing business partners. So shout out to Atlanta from Cody, and then David from ruining who are really good at filtering people because I’m always after the interview. Like, were there any red flags that you saw? Like, I didn’t see anything? And they’re like, Yeah, we got a million red flags. And like, Oh, okay. So it definitely helps having those people who can really read people really well, because I think for me, I just go off, they were lovely. You know, I really liked them. And then they would just go, no, they were like incompetent, like, Oh, okay.

Mel:
So how do you find good business partners? Because, you know, that’s something even harder to do. It’s like a marriage, you know, like, so how did you come across? Yeah, like, I’ve had like, two successful business partnerships already. And I had to, like, buy one out. And then the other one just was like, I don’t know why you want me because you want to control everything. And I was like, I’m, like, so. So how did you find you know, how do you know because that’s, that’s, that’s a

Lisa:
skill, the things you don’t and that’s the hard thing. So it definitely helps if you get to know them a bit more like before you actually go, you know, jump into bed with them kind of like a relationship. It’s almost like you’re dating. Yeah, so I would definitely advise to get to know people before you commit to signing, you know, shares to them. Because it’s really hard as you might have gone through to get

Mel:
out, how did you get to know them? Like, how did you get to know them? Like, did you just like hanging out with them? Or did you do projects with them in a work environment, like how,

Lisa:
so for some of mine, I actually know for both, I was sort of friends and then started doing stuff together that we had similar interest in, so then you could see how they work. So that definitely helps, because then you can understand, Okay, what’s their work ethic, like, because you definitely don’t want a business partner who’s doing you know, nine to five, if you’re there, you know, killing yourself working weekends and after hours. So you need to be aligned on work ethic, or at least expectations. So they might say, I only want to work nine to five, but I’ll take, you know, way less shares because I’m not gonna be working as hard. So just ensuring that you have some sort of alignment on expectations. Even values, for me is like a really important thing. So say, I really value people over profit, whereas other people might value profit over people. So it’s just making sure that you’re aligned, and you don’t have to be exactly the same in your approach to work because or even your skill set. In fact, it’s it’s definitely beneficial to have people who, you know, make up for your weaknesses, I’ve got many weaknesses. So it’s very easy to find people to make up for my weaknesses, but you need to be, I guess, aware of what your weaknesses are. So you can actually tell people okay, this is where I’m not gonna be able to be great in like a process. Don’t even ask me any questions, I’m terrible. So you’ll know that you’ll need to either find staff or you’ll need to find a business partner who will be able to make up for those the areas that you’re not so strong in. So I would say that those are some of the key things to be mindful of. When it comes to, to business. I would also say even like approach to money, you know, just you know, if people are very greedy and want to spend a whole lot of money and they’re not conservative with money, if you’re not concerned, if you are conservative, it can be quite stressful because you’re like, well, we need to be careful. We’re running into tough times and they’re just like out there, you know, spending stacks of money on I don’t know what like flights or you know, travel and stuff when it’s just not financially responsible. So, making sure you align on key things like that will definitely help. It’ll give you the best chance for success when it comes to building ongoing business partner business relationships, but also you just have to realise that people change over time. So you might have been amazing together for the first five years, and then you both evolve as people and then you might realise actually, we don’t go well together anymore. And it’s like a relationship. That’s okay. You know, you don’t have to be with a business partner for the rest of your life.

Mel:
Super cool. I loved it. Lisa, you’re so humble. It didn’t expect to be so humbled. So kind, I was like, you know, I thought it was going to be a different kind of personality. So I’m super glad that we got to connect and just hear a little portion of your journey. And yeah, I’m just super glad I got to connect with such a great soul. So thank you for coming on and connecting and sharing.

Lisa:
Amazing. Thank you so much for having me, Melanie and for even creating such a great podcast, you know, for entrepreneurs out there can be a bit of a lonely journey. So to have a resource like yours, it’s definitely Fantastic.

Mel:
Thanks, Lisa. Talk to you soon. Can’t wait to release. Bye. Thank you, bye. You’re listening to innovative minds.

Want More Linkedin Tips And Inspiring CEO Stories?